My grandfather died this morning. On one level, his death came as a mercy and was not accompanied by the shock and tragedy that so often accompany a loved one’s passing. But on another level, my grandfather’s death—like all deaths—is a shock and it is tragic. We wear death very poorly, as human beings. We try to ignore it, sanitize it, romanticize it, keep it arms length, or any number of other strategies, but we’re never very successful.
I don’t think we are supposed to be comfortable or “at peace” with death, no matter how “natural” it is. It’s not how we’re wired. It’s not how I’m wired. Even as Christians who do not “grieve as those who have no hope,” death always stings, always robs, always leaves a hole, always mocks and reminds. Death always hurts.
It’s been a quiet morning thus far—a good one for thinking about my grandfather, praying, and reading. One of the books I have been thumbing through is Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. In a discussion of heaven, she cites these words from St. Augustine:
Let us sing Alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security… We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both here and there, but here they are sung in anxiety, there in security; here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live forever; here they are sung in hope, there in hope’s fulfillment; here, they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country. So then… let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey… Sing then, but keep going.
Goodbye Grandpa. Sing well in hope’s fulfillment.